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Insurance report card - Body shops grade providers

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Not all insurance companies are created equal. That's a saying Jimmy Brown routinely tells his customers when they come to his Simpsonville auto body shop for collision repair.

Brown, owner of Medley's Body and Paint shop, said some companies will do anything they can to help their customers. And others will cut any corner they can to save a buck.

Over the 20 years that Brown has been sending out bills to insurance companies for auto repairs, Brown has formed a list of his favorite and least favorite insurance companies. Kentucky Farm Bureau is at the top and Progressive is way down at the bottom, he said.

And in the results of a statewide survey released earlier this week, Brown's preferences seem to be held by the majority of repair shops in the state.

On Monday, the Automotive Service Council of Kentucky released a report card of auto insurance companies in the state. The results were compiled from a survey of over 400 collision repair shops across the state.

The providers were graded from A to F on service and commitment to their customers.

The ASC has been releasing these report cards since 1993. For the first time this year, Kentucky Farm Bureau has made the top of the list. Previously, State Farm has always been ranked the best. This year they were just behind Farm Bureau with an A- ranking.

Pat Gisler, executive director of ASC, said the opinion of the repair mechanics should carry a lot of weight.

"If you really want to know which insurance companies takes care of their customers, call the repair shops," she said. "They'll tell you who cares and who doesn't."

Pat Hargadon, agency manager, said Farm Bureau has made a commitment to serving their customers. That's why they were at the top of the list and why they are the largest provider in Shelby County, he said.

"Price may sell, but service makes them stay," he said.

At the bottom of the ASC's ranking were Progressive and Safeco.

Gisler spoke frankly about the problems of some of the insurance companies on the survey.

"If you do have a wreck and you've got Progressive, you've got problems," she said.

She said while the advertisements may seem appealing, the service of such companies often leaves much to be desired.

"Even if it costs a little more, it's better to go with a better company," she said. "They may entice you with their low prices, but they wouldn't be there for you if you get into an accident."

Gisler said while Progressive has been talking about making improvements to their customer service, "talking about it is easy."

Brown said one of the things that separates the good from the bad is understanding the nature of the repair industry.

He said on nearly 80 percent of all collision repair jobs the vehicle will have received hidden damages. That damage is impossible to estimate until the vehicle is being repaired. Some insurance companies "drag their feet" on approving such additional repairs, he said.

"It's more like pulling teeth, it makes my job difficult," he said.

While most of the local shops spoken to about the report confirmed Progressive's bad reputation, not all Shelby County shops have had bad experiences with the company.

Dennis Terhune, manager of Terhune Body Shop, said while Progressive is known for restricting the kind of parts and number of hours spent on a repair, his shop has a good relationship with the company.

Because the shop has a direct relationship with Progressive, Terhune said they do not have the problems other shops have with the company.

Box

The insurance company report card

Released by the Kentucky Collision Repairers

Kentucky Farm Bureau A

State Farm A-

Ohio Casualty B

Geico B-

Hartford C

Travelers C

USAA C-

AIG D+

Liberty Mutual D

Nationwide D

Allstate D-

Safeco D-

Progressive F